Media Heavies Question “Pro-Israel” Moniker

I understand that the J Street Project, which was launched officially only one month ago, is gathering supporters at a pretty good clip, and now its efforts to redefine what can be considered “pro-Israel” appear to be making some headway, at least in the two of this country’s most influential daily newspapers. Last week, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s founder and director, published a strong essay in the “Outlook” section of the Washington Post entitled “Myths on Who’s Really Pro-Israel.” And Sunday’s “Week in Review” section in the New York Times provided two offerings that raised precisely the same question, the first by Tom Friedman, entitled “Obama and the Jews”, and a much more powerful piece by Atlantic correspondent and New Yorker contributor Jeffrey Goldberg whose partiality toward Israel was made clear, among other things, by his service in its army. Goldberg’s piece is a passionate indictment of the major national Jewish organizations, particularly the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and AIPAC, essentially for confusing being pro-Israel with being pro-settlement, or, in his words:

“So why won’t American leaders push Israel [toward dismantling the settlements] publicly? Or, more to the point, why do presidential candidates dance so delicately around this question? The answer is obvious: the leadership of the organized American Jewish community has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate support for the colonization of the West Bank with support for Israel itself. …

“The people of Aipac and the Conference of Presidents are well meaning, and their work in strengthening the overall relationship between America and Israel has ensured them a place in the world to come. But what’s needed now is a radical rethinking of what it means to be pro-Israel.”

While, unfortunately, neither Goldberg, whose recent interview of Barack Obama no doubt helped inspire his Times op-ed, nor Friedman mentioned J Street in their articles, their arguments are entirely consistent with the new group’s mission, and are indicative, I believe, of a growing ferment within the Jewish community over whether its Likud-leaning organized leadership is really promoting Israel’s best interests and the chances of its long-term survival. (I think the growing media attention to key backers, such as Sheldon Adelson, of the Republican Jewish Coalition and Freedom’s Watch, is contributing to this ferment.)

Now that both the Post and the Times have seen fit to publish essays that argue persuasively that the phrase “pro-Israel” that have reflexively attached to groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents and even the far-right Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), perhaps they will employ the phrase more judiciously in their news reporting. Or is that too much to hope for?

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. This is an overdue question. I also wonder if pro-American is good either. I was listening to a buddy tout Alan Keyes as Pro-American. I don’t think much of Mr. Keyes, I think he is a bit overly-defensive. I don’t think much of jealously generally. It seems that thos who are jealous often loose the object of their jealous feelings.

    Ironically, stability and legitimacy comes not from bitterly defending yourselves against any rival but from opportunity. We see the crime rate rises when the economy is bad. This is because of two reasons, the first Voltaire best phrased, “work banishes those three great evils, bordom, vice and poverty;” in other words busy people have other things going on. The second benefit of opportunity is that it eases feeling of envy that makes our adversaries resent us.

    Oppressing, dominating, humilating and starving our opponents won’t dissolve their resolve. To the contrary, it will cause them to retrench, gain the sympathy of others, and steels their resolve.

    If we want to drain the swamp of terrorism, democracy may well be an effective reform. But don’t be fooled. The tyrants of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait are our buddies. The Arabs hate us for keeping these dictators in power, especially when we tout the need for democracy. The cry for democracy has sadly been a war cry rather than a call for reforms. These reforms start at home, where we need to re-examine our support for regimes who fail to support democratic opportunity for their people.

    Zionists argue the status of the Arabs in their midst. Many deny the Palestinians very identity as a people. Regardless, they have many Arabs under their heel, yet these people are denied real political representation, real opportunity or basic human liberties. Israel is not the only country to abuse their people. But, it benefits no one to continue these abuses. Anyone who stains themselves aiding this tyranny risks becoming the enemies of liberty.

    The Declaration of Independence argues that it is the “duty” of those under tyranny to throw of the tyrannical forces that choke them. We’ve gone from being the beacon of liberty to the enabler of dictatorship. We’ve failed to scrutinize Israel and ourselves.

  2. Hooray for Jeffrey Goldberg! Israeli expansionism is dangerous for Isaeli national security. It will involve Israel in conflict with the Arab world and the wider Muslim world for decades. Meanwhile, controlling extra territory does little to make Israel safer. Expansion thus has little upside and a large downside for Israel.
    Israel pursues expansion largely to appease religious extremists in the Israeli settler movement. The American Jewish community should seize the tiller from these religious extremists and help steer Israeli policy in a more sensible direction. It should say “no” to Israeli settlement expansion. This is the truly pro-Isael thing to do.

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